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AMONG the smaller duties of life, I hardly know any one more important than that of not praising where praise is not due.* Reputation is one of the prizes for which men contend; it is as Mr. Burke calls it, “ the cheap defence and ornament of nations." It produces more labour and more talent than twice the wealth of a country could ever rear up. It is the coin of genius, and it is the imperious duty of every man to bestow it with the most scrupulous justice and the wisest economy.
SYDNEY SMITH. Conduct of the Understanding. THE character of the person who commends you is to be considered before you set a value on his esteem. The wise man applauds him whom he thinks most virtuous, the rest of the world him who is most wealthy.
Thoughts : POPE and SWIFT. NOTHING is so uncertain as general Reputation. A man injures me from humour, passion, or interest; hates me because he has injured me; and speaks ill of me because he hates me.
Art of Thinking. PHILIP OF MACEDON was wished to banish one for speaking ill of him. But Philip answered, “ Better he speak where we are both known than where we are both unknown.t
Thou pleasant, honest flatterer! for none
COWLEY. The Mistress.
Howe'er misfortune seems to lower :
COWLEY. The Mistress.
* Manby. Speaking well of all mankind is the worst kind of detraction ; for it takes away the reputation of a few good men in the world, by making all alike.
WYCHERLEY. The Plain Dealer, Act I.
POPE. Iliad, Book X.
Edgar. YET better thus, and known to be contemn’d,
Than still contemn'd and flatter'd. To be worst,
King Lear, Act IV.
Henry IV., First Part, Act I.
Hope or Chance of Good Fortune too much valued. THE over-weening conceit which the greater part of men have of their own abilities, is an ancient evil remarked by the philosophers and moralists of all ages. Their absurd presumption in their own good fortune has been less taken notice of.* It is, however, if possible, still more universal. There is no man living who when in tolerable health and spirits, has not some share of it. The chance of gain is by every man more or less over-valued, and the chance of loss is by most men undervalued, and by scarce any man, who is in tolerable health and spirits, valued more than it is worth.
SMITH. Wealth of Nations. But where is the man whom Hope has so restrained, that when from a vigilant and sound use of his understanding, he has predicted to himself the better fortune, as the more probable, does not rest upon the anticipation and indulge pleasing thoughts thereof, as so many pleasing dreams ? And this is what renders the mind light, tumid, irresolute and wandering: whereof all Hope should be employed only upon a future life in Heaven. But for this world, the purer our sensations of the present things are, and the freer from all infection, and tincture of the Imagi
* He that embarks in the voyage of life will always wish to advance, rather by th: impulse of the wind, than the strokes of the oar; and many founder in their passage, while they lie waiting for the gale.
BYRON. The Island.
nation, the more does a wiser and better spirit forbid us to cherish any long Hopes of a life so extremely short.
Merchant of Venice, Act II., Scene 6.
The Evil of Depending too much on Futurities. We are apt to rely upon future prospects, and become really expensive, while we are only rich in possibility. We live up to our expectations, not our possessions, and make a figure proportionable to what we may be, not what we are. We outrun our present income, as not doubting to disburse ourselves out of the profits of some future place, project, or reversion that we have in view. It is through this temper of mind which is so common among us, that we see tradesmen break who have met with no misfortune in business, and men of estates reduced to poverty who have never suffered from losses or repairs, tenants, taxes or lawsuits. In short, it is this foolish sanguine temper, this depending upon futurities, that occasions romantic generosity, chimerical grandeur, senseless ostentation, and generally ends in beggary and ruin. The man who will live above his present circumstances, is in great danger of living in a little time much beneath them, or as the Italian proverb runs—"The Man who
* In all wordly things that a man pursues with the greatest eagerness and intention of mind imaginable, he finds not half the pleasure in the actual possession of them, as he proposed to himself in the expectation.
SOUTH. Sermons. The end therefore which at present calls forth our efforts will be found when it is once gained to be only one of the means to some remoter end. The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.
Rambler, No. 2.
GRAY. Ode on Eton College,
lives by Hope, will die by Hunger.” It should be an indispen-
Spectator, No. 121.
And bade the lovely scenes at distance hail !
And from the rocks, the woods, the vale,
And, where her sweetest theme she chose,
A soft responsive voice was heard at every close ;
COLLINS. Ode to the Passions.
WITH him went Hope in rancke a handsome mayd
SPENSER. Faëry Queen, Book III., Canto 2.
HOPE with a goodly prospect feeds the eye,
HOPE, deceitful as she is, serves at least to conduct us through life by an agreeable path.
* Hope springs eternal in the human breast :
Man never is, but always to be blest.
He did not follow what they all pursued
BYRON. Lara, Canto I.
BUTLER. Miscellaneous Thoughts. WHAT people hope for, they think at last they have a right to, and when they are disappointed, they actually think themselves ill-used.*
Sam SLICK. Wise Saws.
NAMES. A GOOD name will wear out; a bad one may be turned ; a nickname lasts for ever.
TECHNICAL LANGUAGE. EVERY man (says Swift) is more able to explain the subject of an art than its professors; a farmer will tell you in two words that he has broken his leg, but a surgeon after a long discourse will leave you as ignorant as you were before.
TRADING MAXIM. HE that would succeed in a project of gain, must never attempt to gain too much, and on proper occasions must even know how to lose.
Narbal, a Tyrian, to Telemachus.
In little trades more cheats and lying
BUTLER. Miscellaneous Thoughts.
* Surrounded with petitioners ? and those perhaps sometimes all suitors for the same thing; whereupon all but one will be sure to depart grumbling, because they miss of what they think their due, and even that one scarce thankful because he thinks he has no more than his due.